A Wanganui teacher has won a top prize for her study at Massey University last year.
Colombian-born Lida Penn, who teaches Spanish at Cullinane College, won the Argentine Embassy Prize for her Bachelor of Arts majoring in Latin American culture and Spanish language.
The prize - now in its second year - recognised academic achievement in Spanish language and culture papers. Mrs Penn was awarded the 300-level prize for the 2012 academic year. The 100-level went to Aucklander Kathleen Edmonds and the 200-level to Deborah Thompson from Feilding.
The awards were presented by Fernando Escalona, Argentina's Ambassador to New Zealand, at an Argentine-inspired lunch.
He congratulated the students and spoke of the embassy's links with the university and its keenness to support the Spanish programme.
Spanish lecturer Dr Leonel Alvarado said the prizes recognised and rewarded the students' hard work and reaffirmed Massey's relationship with the Argentine embassy.
"The support we get from the embassy is really valuable not only for the Spanish programme, but for Massey. It's a friendly relationship between Massey and the embassy and we want that to continue," he said.
Mrs Penn said she met her Kiwi husband in Guatemala, where he was teaching as a missionary.
"Latin American men are charming and extroverted, but the problem is they're charming to everyone.
"New Zealand men are just as charming but they are much more faithful and loyal," she said.
The couple moved to Wanganui 18 years ago and had two children, Carlos (now 16) and Giovanna (13).
Mrs Penn said she had been teaching for almost as long, but her overseas qualifications were not recognised here.
"I needed to do the study so I can gain my registration as a teacher. It was a marathon year as I had to do 10 papers as well as work full time, but I was happy to do it because I needed to."
She said she loved working at Cullinane with all her heart, and her boss, principal Kevin Shore, had been a tremendous supporter of her study last year.
"He has been absolutely amazing. He's been happy for me to do my study and whenever I needed a second opinion on something he would be happy to help.
"My students have also been so supportive and such an inspiration for me."
But she's not resting on her Spanish success - Mrs Penn has now started a graduate diploma in secondary teaching, again through Massey and again as a distance student.